After becoming an independent country in 1991, Croatia has qualified for five of the seven World Cups that have taken place ever since, being France 1998 their first one. That year, the Croatian team made it to the semi-finals, but lost against France 1–2. On 2002, 2006, and 2014 Croatia did not make it through the group stage, until this World Cup, where the team is again competing against France, but this time for the title of Champion of the World.
But back to 1998… it must have been pretty exciting for the new country to make it to the semi-finals their first year entering the World Cup as an independent country (they had qualified before, but as part of Yugoslavia). As I said before, they lost 1–2 against France. Croatia had scored the first goal in the minute 46, however, right a minute after, France scored a goal, followed by a second one in the 69th minute.
The author of that first and only goal for the Croatian team was striker Davor Šuker, who today is the President of the Croatian Football Federation (let us remember that, for the rest of the World, the word “football” refers to what here in America we call “soccer”). For a minute there, thanks to Šuker’s goal, Croatia had made it to the Final… until a player for the French team, defender Lilian Thuram, scored a second and a third goal, making it to the Final against Brazil, and winning the World Cup after defeating them 3–0.
Now, let us talk a bit about these two players. Davor Šuker started his football career playing for his hometown team, the Osijek, as a 16-year-old, where he became their top goal scorer. He played for the Osijek for five years, until he signed for the Dinamo Zagreb in 1991, however, the war in Croatia prevented what would have been a promising season for Šuker. This situation resulted in Šuker’s move to the Sevilla in 1991 where he played for five years until he was signed by the Real Madrid in 1996. He then played for the Arsenal, West Ham United, and 1860 Munich, until he retired as a player in the year 2003. This is a trading card of Davor Šuker playing for the Croatian team during
the World Cup of 1998, when they almost made it to the Final.
Now with Lilian Thuram. He was awarded the Bronze Ball as the third most valuable player in the World Cup of 1998. Thuram played for the Monaco for five years (1991-1996), then he signed for the Parma, the Juventus, playing until he was finally signed by the Barcelona in the year 2006, where he played for two years. Below is the trading card of Lilian Thuram of Lilian Thuram that appeared on the Panini album of that year.
This upcoming Sunday the two teams are meeting again but now in the Final, competing for the first place in the most important soccer tournament in the world, let’s see what happens this time. Who are you rooting for?